Fix Skin Tones in Photoshop with One-Click! Powerful Curves Hack


In this video, I’m going to show you how to fix skin tones in Photoshop!

We will use a powerful curves adjustment hack that will allow you to click once and fix skin tones. This technique will be a great addition to your portrait retouching workflow.

You will have to fine-tune the image after you apply the initial adjustment, but Photoshop will do most of the hard work for you.

You only have to experiment with Opacity or Blending Modes to see what gives you a better result.

Fix Skin Tones in Photoshop With The Curves Adjustment Layer

In this tutorial, we will take advantage of the Eyedropper Tools in the Curves Adjustment Layer.

The Eyedropper tools will allow you to set custom colors, and we will use them to fix skin tones.

Before we fix the skin tones in a portrait, we will take a look as to what the Eyedropper Tools in the Curves Adjustment Layer do, and how we could customize them to achieve the effect that we want.

This video is not just about fixing skin tones in Photoshop, it contains a ton of useful tips and tricks. So make sure that you stick around to the end!

Skin Tone CC Library Colors

I’ve created this free Creative Cloud Library where you can download the skin tone swatches to your computer.

Fix Skin Tones in Photoshop Swatches
Click on the swatches to go to a Creative Cloud page where you save them into your account.
Or save the image into your computer if you do not have a Creative Cloud account.

Choose Window > Info.

As you hover over the image pixels, the RGB values in the Info panel will change. As a rule of thumb, a great skin tone means the Red value is higher than the Green, and the Green value is higher than the Blue.

In this image, the Red value is lower than the Green, which indicates that it is not the appropriate skin tone. 

In this tutorial, you’ll learn how to use the Curves adjustment layer to fix skin tones in Photoshop with just one click!

Organize the Photoshop Document

Start with organizing your Photoshop document by creating a new Group and naming it as “Retouch.”

Click on the Portrait layer and select the Quick Selection tool and use it to choose the areas that need skin tone correction, including the hair where the skin also shows.

To subtract an area from the selection, hold Alt (Windows) or Option (macOS) as you click-and-drag on the areas to deselect. 

With the selection active, select the Group, and click on the New Layer Mask icon to create a new Layer Mask that applies to the Group. This also means you can use multiple adjustment layers controlled by the same Layer Mask

That means when you create a Curves adjustment layer while you have the Group selected, it will appear inside of the Group, and any adjustments you make will only affect the contents of that mask. 

Curves Eyedropper Explanation

With the Curves adjustment layer selected, go to the Properties panel and note the Eyedropper tools on the left side. 

Black Eyedropper – sample in the image to set black point (any area you select with this Eyedropper turns to black). 

Gray Eyedropper – sample in the image to set gray point (any area you select with this Eyedropper turns to gray).

White Eyedropper – sample in the image to set white point (any area you select with this Eyedropper turns to white).

With that shown, click on the reset icon to start anew.

Custom Colors With The Curves Eyedropper

Double-click on the Black Eyedropper and select a dark red color

On the Dialog box asking you if you want to set the target colors as defaults, click on the “No” button.

Then, using the Black Eyedropper to click on a hair area, you will notice how the dark red is now the darkest color in the image. 

Double-click on the White Eyedropper and set the color to a light green. 

When the Dialog box pops up again, press “No.”

Then, use the White Eyedropper to click on the highlights of the face. Now, your brightest points are all in the shade of light green. 

If you return to the Properties panel, the white point and the black point has been changed on each channel in the Adjustment panel.

You can control each R, G, and B channel by clicking on the drop-down menu.

You may use a Grey Eyedropper to neutralize the image.

If you refer back to the Adjustment panel, the white and black points have not changed, only the mid-tones. 

If you double-click on the Grey Eyedropper, it brings up the Color Picker window where the Grey is at 50%.

You can also change that to a different color, such as Magenta

Press OK to exit the window. 

Then, click on a mid-tone in the background, and the face color changes to the exact shade of purple you set on the Color Picker window. 

This whole process shows you how you can quickly fix skin tones in Photoshop with just one click.

Now, reset the Curves adjustment layer.

Save the Free Skin Tone CC Library

The key is to double-click on the Grey Eyedropper and set the skin tone color on the Color Picker window to change the skin tone.

For this one, PTC has a CC library of skin tones you can readily use, and you can download it by clicking here

If you don’t have Photoshop CC, you can screenshot the color library and use the Eyedropper tool to sample a color and use it for the skin tone!

Apply a Skin Color Correction with One-Click!

Once you have them in your library, click on any skin tones to set it as the Foreground color.

Select the Curves adjustment layer.

On the Properties panel, double-click on the Grey Eyedropper and select the skintone set as the Foreground color. Then, press OK.

On the dialog box, click NO so that it doesn’t set as the default.

On the Options bar, set the Sample Size to 11 by 11 Average, this means you will sample the average pixel on a parameter of 11×11 pixels.

Then, use the Grey Eyedropper tool to select the skin.

Fine-Tune the Skin Color Correction

The current skin tone is up for adjustments from this point.

For starters, the new skin tone should not affect the eyes. Select the Layer Mask and the Brush tool.

Then, set the Foreground color to black (#000000) and paint over its eyes to unselect it.

Here’s a cool trick with the Fade command:

Enlarge the brush and set the Foreground color to white (#ffffff).

Paint over the eyes to reveal the effect once again. 

Choose Edit > Fade Brush tool.

On the Fade window, adjusting the Opacity means reducing your previous step’s opacity and, in this case, reducing the opacity erasing the skin tone effect on the eyes so you can control the color’s intensity. 

For this edit, set it at 50% Opacity.

Select the Curves adjustment layer and reduce the layer’s opacity to make the skin tone look more realistic.  

Using the Dark Skin Tone Color Swatches

Increase the Opacity of the Curves adjustment layer to 100%.

On the Library panel, select a dark skin tone.

On the Layers panel, select the Curves adjustment layer.

Back on the Properties panel, click on the Grey Eyedropper. 

On the Color Picker window, set the color to the selected dark skin tone on your Foreground color. On the dialog box, click on No.

You may notice it has changed his skin tone, but he’s still white and did not turn darker, and that’s because the gray point only changes the midtones and does not change the black or white points.

Control the Skin Tone Brightness

If you set the Blending mode to Color, it will not use new luminosity but will use the luminosity of the background instead—the original luminous values—and letting the Curves adjustment layer take care of the hue and saturation.

Next, create a Levels adjustment layer.

Set the Blending Mode to Luminosity, so it only affects the luminous values and use this layer to control the brightness of the skin tone.

You can also create a Vibrance adjustment layer to control the Saturation of the image.

Click here to learn more about Vibrance and Saturation!

Now you see that with this Group alone, you can control the entire adjustment and the skin tone with just one click!

Add a New Color Swatch To Your Library

To add a new color swatch to your CC Library, select a color that you want to add to the library and set it as the Foreground color.

Click on the plus icon > Foreground color.

The selected Foreground color is in the library, and rename the color by double-clicking on the name. 

To delete a color from the library, click-and-drag the color towards the trash icon.

Compare the Final Skin Tone RGB Values

When you hover your cursor over the face, the Info panel displays two sets of values: the original values (left) or the values created with the adjustment layer (right).

Compared to the values before, you will see that the red is now higher than the green value, and the green is higher than the blue—resulting in a more vibrant skin tone.

Final Image

Drag The Slider To See Before & After

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Jeff Anduza

Hi Jesus,
Love your tutorials!!!
The link for the skin tones takes me to a “Error 404: Asset not found” on the assets.adobe.com site.
Please advise me how to get the library at this point.

Thank you,
Jeff

Rich

Hi – love your tuts. When I click on image or the link above it brings to an error page saying asset not available. I do have an Adobe creative cloud acct.

Gil

This was a Great tutorial about colors and I look forward to using them in the near future. Thank You.

Gilbert Waldo

This was a Great tutorial about colors and I look forward to using them in the near future. Thank You.

Michelle

So I was able to follow tutorial until getting to the gray dropper and selecting magenta. When I click on my image I get an error message: Could not use the gray point tool because the settings in the file are invalid. Continuing with the tutorial when I choose a skin color and change the gray eyedropper tool to that color I get a very underwhelming change and not a total cast change like shown here. It is so subtle it barely makes a difference. Believe it has something to do with the error above. Any idea how to correct this?